Tuesday, May 04, 2010

Quinn calls for insurance reform

By Jamey Dunn

Gov. Pat Quinn called for lawmakers to pass legislation before they adjourn their spring session that would allow Illinois to capture $200 million in federal funds to expand the state’s pool for high-risk health insurance.

Illinois offers people with preexisting conditions an opportunity to be insured through the Illinois Comprehensive Health Insurance Plan, often referred to as ICHIP. However, the premiums, which can often be steep, make the program unaffordable for many. Quinn said the federal funds would expand the program and make “high risk” health insurance more readily available.

Quinn is also asking lawmakers to pass a “bill of rights” for health care consumers. It would include:

  • Coverage for children with preexisting conditions.
  • Guaranteed access for women to obstetrical and gynecological care.
  • Requirements that insurance companies make information, such as premium and health care costs, available to the public.

Quinn added that the state needs a system to review cases of insurance companies dropping people from their plans.

“Right now if you have home insurance or auto insurance, you have an ability to appeal to the [Illinois] Department of Insurance to make sure that you’re getting a fair shake. That provision does not apply right now to health insurance, and it should,” he said at a Chicago news conference.

Michael McRaith, director of the Illinois Department of Insurance, agreed that reforms are needed.

“Make no mistake that Illinois’ health insurance marketplace right now is completely dysfunctional,” he said at the news conference.

McRaith, who has long advocated for expanding consumer access to insurance, said Quinn’s proposal will not fix all the problems, but it will help some families get access to health care and bridge the gap until federal heath care reform takes effect in 2014.

“It is not a silver bullet. It is not a panacea, but it will provide great relief to families around our state in this important transition period leading up to 2014,” he said.

Quinn’s demand that the legislature address this becomes another issue stacked upon some sweeping changes to nursing home and telecommunications regulation that the General Assembly plans to address this session — not to mention passing a “balanced” budget, that will not contain an income tax increase, in the face of a $13 billion deficit. And don’t forget, legislators are still saying they will have session wrapped up by the end of the week. Things are going to start moving quickly. Check back for updates.

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